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October 7, 2011

This is the inaugural post by Terry Music, chief mission delivery officer, American Cancer Society, and a breast cancer survivor.

As chief mission delivery officer at the American Cancer Society I am responsible for the many programs and services the Society provides to cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers. I take special notice of Breast Cancer Awareness Month each October both because I am happy I get to play a part in bringing comfort to so many women and their families through the Society’s work, and because I am myself a breast cancer survivor.

I lost my mother to breast cancer when she was only 55. Years later I was diagnosed with cancer at nearly the same age my mother had been at the time of her diagnosis. Needless to say, I was scared and anticipated a future much like hers. But I soon realized that there were significant differences in our situations. In the years between my mother’s cancer diagnosis and mine, new discoveries and advancements in screening and treatment ensured that my chance at long-term survival was much greater. I benefitted in the most personal way possible from the activism, fund-raising, and other efforts that led to increased knowledge about the disease.

Though my cancer experience happened several years ago, I will always be a cancer survivor, and I still celebrate on a daily basis. I don’t wait for a special month or only mark a milestone event on its anniversary, I believe that every day is special. That’s one of the gifts of a cancer diagnosis. Many survivors say the same thing. After living through cancer, we focus more on the special people in our lives, the way the flowers make yard work easier, and we take very personally the way others support the efforts to end this disease. I feel very lucky that my job places me on the front line of that effort.

While October represents a chance to get involved in the fight against breast cancer through participating in walks like our Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, or supporting some of the cause marketing efforts that seem to multiply each year, I also see this month as a chance to have a discussion about turning what we know about breast cancer into what we do about it. While nobody is to blame for having cancer, there are a few things we can all do that are proven to reduce overall risk. Namely, maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise, do not use tobacco in any form, and get recommended screenings.

Furthermore, if you are dealing with breast cancer or any type of cancer, know that you are not alone. The American Cancer Society is in your corner. Call our 24-hour National Cancer Information Center at 800-227-2345 to learn about the different ways we can help. We offer patient navigators, peer counseling for breast and prostate cancer patients, assistance with transportation to doctor appointments, lodging for people who need to travel far from home for treatment, volumes of information about your type of cancer, and much more.

I celebrate October and February and July and all the months in between by urging my family, my friends and those for whom I work everyday to take control of the things we can do to reduce cancer risk, and to let the Society help if you need us. Together, we are working toward a world with less cancer and more birthdays.

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